Wednesday, 6 February 2019
Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017: Committee Stage
I listened carefully to the debate, particularly the Minister of State's contribution. I agree with him. It was a pity that the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality did not carry out any pre-legislative scrutiny of this legislation. Pre-legislative scrutiny should be the default position on all legislation unless there is a very good reason it should not happen. That said, this is a very progressive Bill. The fact that the Government has engaged in an extremely meaningful way shows how committed it is to endorsing and embracing what the Bill is trying to achieve.
We have all received quite an amount of correspondence and communications on this legislation. It shows how much it affects families. I agree with Senator Norris that the submissions received have been entirely from women, which shows that were this legislation to pass, it would have a significant impact on the daily lives of families and people charged with the greatest responsibility one can be asked to take on in life, which is bringing up children.
Irish society is moving into a space where family and work-life balance do matter. I listened to Senator Gavan. Knowing him as I do - I consider him a good friend - I have no doubt that he did five days work in three days when he took his parental leave. I have no doubt that he compressed a full five days into three days. Many people do. A friend of mine works four days a week and I have no doubt she does a five-day week in those four days. One could call that business and employers partnering with their staff and creating an environment everyone buys in to. People will go the extra mile if they are facilitated. If a company can afford to pay for parental leave, it creates a good environment. I agree that we need to move towards paid parental leave. Why should a company that can afford it have an advantage over a company that is not in a position to pay for it? I believe a partnership between the Government and business needs to be looked at.
I do not believe that looking to introduce this next September is unreasonable. I do not think we should rush for the sake of rushing and not get it right. We are far better off spacing it out and having the proper engagement, consultation and discussions, particularly with SMEs, which make up the vast majority of businesses in this country. I welcome the Minister of State's response to this very important debate. I am very heartened by the fact that he wants to engage in a meaningful way to make this happen in a real way for families in this country.